Tag Archives: africa

Hotel Profile: Gibb’s Farm in Tanzania

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In our Hotel Profile Series, we take a closer look at some of the properties that have charmed, bedazzled and delighted our clients for years without end.

In line with our ongoing theme on East Africa, today’s hotel profile we’re glimpsing into the private rooms of Gibb’s Farm, an incredible place in Tanzania for some post-safari R&R time. WIT Founders Christina and John often stay at the Gibb’s Farm on their biannual trip to Africa, in which they escort clients through the wonders of the Maasai Mara, Serengheti and beyond.

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Gibb’s Farm

This luxury lodge is located in the Karatu area of Northern Tanzania, between the Ngorongoro Crater and Arusha. Just 30 minutes away from both animal-watching areas: Ngorongoro and Lake Manyara, it’s the perfect spot to unwind after a long day’s drive through the plains. You can go on walks, visit the local town, and pamper yourself in the onsite spa.

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Winner of multiple awards from Condé Nast Traveler, Tripadvisor and Travel + Leisure, the property has been likened to “Eden”—and we agree.

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Built in the early 20th century by German settlers as a coffee farm, in 1948 Gibb’s Farm was bought by a British war veteran, who restored the farm after its years of neglect, small vegetable and a flower garden that are still there. The 80-year-old farmstead now houses 20 luxurious cottages and a working coffee farm.

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The ambiance is rustic African with a dash of English countryside playfulness. Spend the night in one of these farm cottages, surrounded by flowers, lush foliage and views of the estate from the veranda.

Christina and John often book Gibb’s Farm for their clients at the end of the multi-day safari in Kenya and Tanzania as a perfect conclusion to an African adventure.

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Cuisine

With organic produce and farm-fresh dairy just outside the kitchen door, it’s no wonder the cuisine at Gibb’s Farm is outstanding. With organic veggies, creamy milk, local meats, and, of course, organic Arabica coffee, guests always leave a meal satisfied and satiated. Candlelit dinners are the norm around the farm, with creative, English- and Tanzanian-inspired dishes.

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Activities

Your guide will take you out for a drive around farmlands in Northern Tanzania, or pay a visit to a local Maasai medicine man. Visit nearby villages Tloma to learn about the Iraqw culture and traditional pottery, and swing by the Karatu market for a glimpse of daily life.

Indulge at the spa to soothe your aches, with traditional remedies like Olkaria clay paint, Arabica coffee scrub, Oljingai Heat Revival, Olorien Hot Wood Treatment, and Engorno Milk Massage.

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Gibbs’s Farm also hosts an artists-in-resident program, where East African artists stay at the farm and create commissioned artwork.

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Get involved and contribute a few of your extra hours in down-time with local communities:

  • working alongside carpenters to construct furniture for the area’s schools.
  • planting trees to help control erosion and reforest the region
  • visiting a primary school in Tloma and learn about the successes and challenges in a rural Tanzanian classroom

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Looking forward to your next African adventure? Call Christina to discuss your trip to Africa for a once-in-a-lifetime Safari expedition! 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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African Safari: Elephants at Tsavo East National Park

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If you’re just tuning in, today we’ll be covering the last leg of WIT Founders Christina and John’s intrepid adventure into East Africa. This is part of our ongoing series on WIT Founders Christina and John’s 2017 African Safari this September. Together with Origins Safaris Christina and John are escorting a group of enthusiastic and safari-loving clients to natural reserves and wildlife conservancies. 

Today: Ithumba Camp Extension, The Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and Tsavo East National Park

As part of an extra 4 nights in East Africa, Willamette Intl Travel included an optional extension at the Ithumba Camp in Tsavo East National Park.

Tsavo East National Park

One of the oldest and largest parks in Kenya, Tsavo East National Park was established in 1948. Tsavo is an incredible natural area 200 km southeast of Nairobi, just a 60-minute charter flight away. Spanning an area of 8036 mi² (20813.14 km²), it’s an ideal safari wilderness, with glimpses of giraffe, gazelle, lions, dik dik and buffalo.

The best part is how remote it is—so remote that the only way to get cellphone reception is to climb a huge boulder and stick out your arm!

Ithumba Camp & Ithumba Hills Camp

There are two camps called Ithumba, one is the more compact Ithumba Camp and the other is the 5-star, luxury Ithumba Hills Camp. Both camps are just minutes away from each other. We have featured the Ithumba Camp in a previous post, but it’s worth taking a second look at this once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage

Every seven years, Tsavo suffers from droughts, causing thirst and friction as elephants roam onto small farmlands and destroy them looking for water. Fortunately Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage does an amazing job taking care of the animals.

In 2016, the Sheldrick foundation shared the story of Malkia, a young orphaned calf. When her mother died from thirst, Malkia was found at her side. It was necessary to rescue her young milk dependent calf, about six months old and undernourished.

She was fed greens throughout the night, then in the morning keepers landed a Cessna Caravan aircraft. The baby was prepared for the flight, laid on a mattress, placed on a canvas stretcher so she could be ably lifted into the back of the plane, which had already had the seats removed allowing for ample space for her to lie recumbent throughout the 1 hour flight with a Keeper by her side.  She was hydrated with a drip for the duration of the flight and arrived safely at the Nursery by 1.30pm in the afternoon.  She immediately fed on milk for the first time since being rescued, which was a relief, but she did look exceptionally tired and was ready to lie down on the soft hay of her stable to sleep.

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Malkia has thrived in the Nursery, aided by her forceful nature.  She is a very determined and mischievous little girl, whose presence here has certainly been felt. Despite being so young when rescued, and under such sad circumstances, she has settled fast; loving and affectionate to her Keepers from the outset.  Malkia and her little friend Esampu have become extremely greedy and vociferous at meal times, with every feeding time accompanied by noise and barging! Despite being so small they can be extremely disruptive giving the Keepers quite the run around.  We are happy to report that Malkia has assimilated into Nursery life seamlessly and appears extremely happy and content amongst the other orphans and her now much loved human family.

The story and images of his rescue can be viewed by clicking this link: http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/asp/orphan_profile.asp?N=361

To Foster Malkia please click on this link: https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/asp/foster.asp

To make a general donation please click on this link: https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/is/donate_now.asp

Handcrafted chocolate to help elephants!
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s friends at L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates are supporting the DSWT’s work with their delectable selection of elephant chocolates.  Through an 8-step/3-day process, each elephant chocolate is hand-piped and hand-dipped by the artisans at L.A. Burdick. These beautifully handcrafted chocolate elephants are available for a limited time in stores and online.  (QUICK! This ends Friday!)

Origins Safaris will be joining Willamette Intl Travel at the 40th Birthday Bash in December! Hope to see you there!

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African Safari: Samburu Game Reserve & Elephant Bedroom Camp

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WIT Founders Christina and John Cooper are currently in Africa leading a Safari Expedition through Kenya with Origins Safaris. So today we’re holding a very special “Close Look” on Kenya, particularly Samburu Game Reserve and the Elephant Bedroom Camp.

Just a short 2-3-hour drive from the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, the semi-arid Samburu Game Reserve is probably Christina’s favorite spot in all of East Africa for scenery and large herds of elephants.

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About Samburu Game Reserve

Samburu National Reserve is a rugged, semi-desert park in the Rift Valley province of Kenya. The area is approximately 65 square miles (104 sq km), and though smaller than its neighboring cousins Tsavo or Masai Mara, it’s relative remoteness makes for a naturally serene ambiance. Notable landmarks include the Ewaso Nyiro River, doum palm groves, riverine forests, acacia trees, and open savannah.

It’s famous for its plentiful wildlife, including cheetahs, warthogs, lions, elephants, buffalo, crocodiles, baboons and hippos, as well as the rarer long-necked gerenuk, Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe and Beisa onyx. Lucky safari troopers may even spot the Kenya leopard. It’s a birdwatcher’s paradise, home to 350 different species of birds including vultures, kingfishers, battlers, guinea fowl, marabous and Somali ostriches.

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In 2015, Christina and John saw a wild dog in Samburu—the first time they’ve been spotted in the region in 25 years! “Our guides were more excited than [even] we were,” Christina recalls. “It was almost dusk and we had to be back in camp but managed to watch them for about an hour. Next morning we got up very early went back to the area where we had sighted them, took about an hour to track them, but sighted them again, even saw a kill. Wild dog have an incredible range…as I know they have been sighted in the Serengeti.”

An African Safari Adventure is a lifetime experience like no other. Call Willamette Intl Travel to learn how we can arrange an Africa expedition that you’ll remember for years to come. Phone 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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About Elephant Bedroom Camp

Elephant Bedroom Camp is one of our favorite lodgings in Africa. Nestled in the shade of doum palms beside the Ewaso Nyiro River, it accommodates 12 spacious, rustic tents with private plunge pool, hot and cold running water and electricity. The camp also has a spacious lounge and dining tent with large veranda, 240V charging facilities, lectures on Samburu culture by resident naturalist, and entertainment by local Samburu warriors. Breakfast and lunch are served ‘al fresco’ on the banks of the river and dinner in the dining area. But we think the video says it best:

Tune in next Monday to see where Christina and John are headed next on their Safari Expedition!

Origins Safaris will be joining us at the 40th Birthday Bash in December! Hope to see you there!

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Conscientious Traveler: Origins Safari

It’s time for our favorite episode on responsible travel, Conscientious Traveler! CT is our monthly series in which we showcase a fantastic travel organization that supports humanitarian and/or environmental work. 

The month of August is all about Origins Safari!

Origins Safari organizes unforgettable trips to East and Central Africa. We’ve partnered up with them for years, providing invaluable experiences to travelers with a passion for wildlife and safari adventures. Most of their programs run in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, though they also touch on natural conservation areas in the South Sudan, Central African Republic, Chad, and Benin.

Many of the trips that WIT Founders Christina and John escort on their annual African trip are courtesy of Origins.

Green Africa

Origins Safari is dedicated to promoting responsible tourism and cultural heritage. They are members of several sustainable organizations, including:

AMREF Flying Doctors: In 1956, three doctors established groundbreaking medical efforts in remote and rural regions of East Africa. Their vision has spread all over the continent, treating the combined effects of poverty, tropical disease and minimal health services and facilities in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Senegal, South Sudan and South Africa. http://amnew.amref.org/

Ecotourism Kenya: This non-profit promotes responsible tourism practices, working with local communities and managing waste, maintaining the natural environment and livelihood of the local people. http://www.ecotourismkenya.org/

The East African Wild Life Society: A membership-based public benefit organization that seeks to promote conservation and the use of natural resources in East Africa. https://www.eawildlife.org/index.php

We Are Africa Travel: An organization dedicated to rethinking old tropes and stereotypes of Africans, and enhance a more modern image of the continent. http://www.weareafricatravel.com/

Just Imagine…

Imagine yourself trekking through Subsaharan Africa with certified guides and drivers, who have grown up in the region and are intimately familiar with the game and people who live there.

  • Spend a day mingling with the tribes of the Omo Delta
  • Photograph Mountain Gorillas in the Virunga Volcanoes
  • Chase the migration herds from the crow’s viewpoint in a helicopter
  • Rest up from a day’s safari in your private tented camp

Steve Turner of Origins Safaris, ground operator with whom we’ve worked closely for over 30 years, is our go-to guy and an expert on migration.

Wherever your spirit of wild adventure leads you, Origins can help you get there!

When to Go?

Steve recommends November to March as primary game viewing in Tanzania. Rain tends to the cusp months, so perfect timing is January and February, with an added bonus of birthing seas in the crater in February. From August to October, head to Kenya as the migration should be thick on the Mara.

Two Sample Itineraries

Click on the Tanzania itinerary below for a larger, legible picture: 

Origins comes to Portland in December

Origins Safari will join us on our 40th birthday celebration this December! One of our favorite guides, Stanley, will return to share with you all about Africa and the programs with Origins Safari. He’ll be our official “storyteller”—stories that will have you in stitches before long!

The date is Sunday, December 3 — see our newsletter for more details.

Call Willamette Intl Travel for more ideas and opportunities to travel in Africa! 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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A Closer Look: Ithumba Safari Camp in Kenya

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Tsavo East National Park, Kenya

Step into Africa…

Willamette Intl Travel Owners Christina and John frequently guide small groups through Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and last year, Namibia. They make it their business to know the ins and outs of safaris, camps and unique adventures in Africa. They usually take 1-2 trips per year with a small group, and over the years, they’ve accumulated a wealth of insider info on the continent. Considering a trip to Africa in 2017 or even 2018? Give Christina a call at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com for the scoop.

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Ithumba Hills

Wildlife Haven

On the Kenya 2015 trip, Christina stayed at Ithumba Camp with 3 single ladies. They stayed at the original Ithumba Camp—not to be confused with the 5-star, luxury Ithumba Hills Camp. Both camps are located minutes from each other in the same area of Tsavo East National Park, 200 km SE of Nairobi—a 7 hour drive, or a quick 60-minute charter flight from the city. The park is an ideal safari location, spanning an area of 8,036 square miles–that’s larger than Wales! It’s so remote, the only way to get cellphone reception is to climb a huge boulder and stick out your arm. You’ll truly feel at home in this wilderness, with chances to glimpse a variety of wildlife: giraffe, gazelle, lions, dik dik, and buffalo.

A Luxury Safari Camp

Though close in proximity, the two camps serve different styles of traveling.

Ithumba Camp is located on the flatlands, a rustic and stylish property. Sleep under makuti roofs and shower yourself in sounds of nature. The camp offers just four tents, with en-suite bathrooms and outdoor showers from where you can admire the stunning starlight. Water and light are powered by solar panels. An open communal pavilion with a small roof terrace is open daily for meals; here you can find the game-viewing decks.

Ithumba Hills is based at the foot of Ithumba Hill, with views of the Yatta Plateau. Like the original camp, Ithumba Hills offers 4 tents, sleeps up to 8 people—but its rates are higher due to more luxurious facilities. Since the whole camp must be booked regardless of how many people there are, it can book up surprisingly fast, sometimes a year in advance. And when we say luxury, we really mean it—each tent offers a five-star experience, with en-suite bathrooms, huge shower areas and dressing rooms. Their game-viewing decks are located off the tents, and there is a huge infinity pool built into the rocks.

Both camps are fully fenced, as there are many wild elephants in the area. All food and drinks are driven in by your safari guide from Nairobi, though Ithumba provides the chef and two other staff.

Baby Elephants!

What really makes Ithumba shine, however, are the nearby Orphans’ Rehabilitation Units, an orphanage for baby elephants who have lost their parents to poaching or other means. Both Ithumba camps and unit are owned by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. The DSWT initiative fights to save elephant lives and their habitats, with their Nairobi Nursery, Saving Habitats in Kibwezi Forest, and these orphan units in Tsavo East. 

Guests can visit the elephant orphans two times a day, meet the calves and chat with their handlers. It’s a special treat to watch baby elephants enjoying milk feeding times and their midday mud-bath.

Join us in September 2017!

Christina will be returning to Ithumba in September 2017. Call her now to start planning your unforgettable trip to Kenya! 503-224-0180 or info@wittravel.com

“I highly recommend Ithumba Safari Camp… after the amazing experience I had last year, I know it’ll be a highlight for you. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be completely surrounded by herds of wild elephants. You also learn what an incredible job Sheldrick Orphanage is doing in attempts to save these beautiful animals.”

–Christina

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Ithumba Hills

Photos of previous trips to Kenya:

Related posts on Africa:

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Ringing in the New Year

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It’s our last post of the year, and 2016 has been quite a big one!

Thank you to all of our clients whose trips we’ve arranged these year; it was our pleasure to see that you enjoy the vacation you deserve. We hope that you made albums full of memories to treasure your whole lives. Some of our clients this year have been new, some we have serviced for the past 20 years. We take pride in providing the most special and informed travel arrangements for each and every one. Thank you, clients and subscribers to our blog, without you our business would not be possible.

This past year there have been a fair share of changes in the office. We saw long-time staff member Linda Fisher retire. Krista left for Arizona, and Racheal, Lori and Debbie joined us as new agents.

Our Agents embarked on a few trips this year, which we’re so excited to share with you. Christina and John led a group in Namibia. Barb visited the new locks at the Panama Canal. Pam dropped in on the islands of Malta. Nancy sailed with Viking Ocean, and Barb and Racheal with Un-Cruise Adventures to Baja California. Wailana moved to Stockholm, where she continues to work with our social media.

Next year we will celebrate our 40th birthday–quite an accomplishment! Mark the weekend of August 5-6, 2017 on your calendars, we’ll be planning a special Birthday party. We hope to see you there.

For more updates, catch up with us in our newsletter from Fall 2016.

Here’s to 2017 having more Travel in store for everyone!

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Safari in Namibia

Transylvania, the Land Beyond the Forest

The Elephants that Came to Dinner

Napili Kai Beach Resort

Agent Trip Report: Malta

And a flashback from the past: Where to Spot the Southern Cross

See you next year! — From all of us at Willamette Intl Travel

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Safari in Namibia: Feedback from Our Clients

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PLUS Photos from WIT Owner Christina

In August and September, WIT Owners Christina and John escorted a group through the Namibian Desert, with the assistance of Ultimate Safaris. 

Our Clients, Jacques & Evelyne V., wrote a great letter about their adventure with them. We are proud to feature their feedback from the trip here. Read on for the enlightening details: 

“My wife Evelyne and I, Jacques, were on a safari from 27 August to 7 September with Michael and Usko as our drivers, guides and live encyclopedias with the Christina and John Cooper group from Willamette Intl Travel. We are back home in Paris, France now so we would like to take some time to say how much we enjoyed the whole trip.

First of all, we wish to thank Michael and Usko (our drivers and guides) for being such fantastic, wonderful persons. They are both the best drivers we have ever encountered on trips: very safe drivers, courteous, polite, efficient, discrete, always well dressed and made us feel like they were family or old friends which in a way they were for the time we spent with them, nearly twenty hours a day. 

They have eyes like hawks and saw way before any of us what and where to look for wild animals, birds or plants. They always knew where they were going, never got lost and kept their vehicles in tip-top shape and always nice and clean inside and out. We always had cool water to drink from the refrigerators in the cars and if any of us wanted to stop for any reason, all we had to say was ‘stop’ and they did. Sundowners were special moments that we appreciated very much. The lodges, tented camps and hotels were marvelous and so was the quality and presentation of the food served at meal times.

We can only hope for Ultimate Safaris that you will be able to hold on to Michael and Usko so that they will not go to work for another company but could there be such competition to attract these two extraordinary men? We don’t imagine another company in Namibia to be better then Ultimate Safaris. We were extremely impressed from the first to the last days with Christina and John, the staff of Ultimate Safaris, and your wonderful country of Namibia.

Thank you very much, Michael, Usko, and the Ultimate Safaris staff for being such great hosts, you have done a fabulous job to make our trip memorable.

All the best from Evelyne and Jacques.”

Below are a few photos taken by Christina on her iphone — along with her comments — rare glimpses into the deserts of Namibia. 

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Ghostly elephant in Etosha National Park. As you can see, it’s very dry – they’re desperate for a good rainfall, which has not happened for a few years. The elephants rolling in the “white dust” appear ghostly.

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The shrub shows how dry Etosha National Park, and indeed Namibia, is

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This is the type of countryside around Sorris Sorris Lodge, Darmanland, quite amazing rock outcrops

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This is a room at our Sorris Sorris Lodge in Darmanland. Truly amazing architecture and surroundings, amazing accommodation and food. Each course of dinner was served on differently designed china from Portugal.

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We did the balloon ride over the Namib Desert–a gorgeous sight!

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This is in the Namib Desert – golden sand – our guides found the small spider which buries deep into the sand — but I enjoyed the shadows!

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There are the very rare desert elephants in Darmaland — they have adjusted to living with very little water and go deep into the dry river bed. We were very lucky (or perhaps because we had such great guides!) to find them — we were actually surrounded by a herd of about 30.

Read More of Our Posts on Namibia:

Considering a Unique Adventure in Africa? Call us up or schedule an appointment at our office. We have been sending clients to Africa (and guiding them) for years, and would love to share with you all we know about this amazing continent. Let us book the perfect African safari for you! Call us at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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